22 January 2009

Blessed Ethel - Fat Star

Blessed Ethel - Fat Star

Label: 2 Damn Loud
Year of Release: 1995

Yes folks, I most definitely was waiting for a quiet January day to upload this one, and that's for one pure and simple reason - Blessed Ethel don't seem to be quoted frequently enough as a reminder of just how much folly is involved with attempting to predict the future of music. Splattered all across the pages of the British broadsheets and music press this month we've heard all about how ladies with synthesisers are going to "define 2009". Based purely upon a bunch of guesstimates, wishful thinking and the close inspection of major label A&R activity (as plenty of other bloggers have already pointed out) I have real, serious doubts that this will come to pass, to the extent that I've been considering taking an actual bet against it down my local Paddy Power. I'm not too sure that the odds I'd receive would make it worth my while, though.

We need only look back to 1993 to witness the music industry making a similar bizarre prediction. At the Manchester In The City event, a bunch of journalists and music industry "movers and shakers" declared that Blessed Ethel were the best new act of the year. The band they beat were Oasis. Hopefully I don't need to point out how askew this particular prediction was. Blessed Ethel scraped the Indie Top 10 a few times before disappearing, whereas Oasis still have a successful career and a string of ridiculously highly selling albums behind them - somewhat baffling though their longevity actually is.

Blessed Ethel have now fallen by the wayside so badly that they don't even have a Wikipedia page - how's that for infamy? - but for the record, I can state that they hailed from Malvern, were fronted by Sara Doran, and much was made in the music press about their 'outsider' status. Although I don't have the article to hand anymore, I used to have a clipping from the NME which made much of the fact that they were considered weirdos in the very provincial, posh town they stemmed from. It made them sound like mutant renegades stuck in commuterville - although it was written by Steven Wells, so it's quite possible he was just projecting his rock and roll ideas on to them.

Whatever (no pun intended), the press they received definitely made them sound more interesting than Oasis, but unfortunately sometimes the weirdos don't necessarily have the best tunes. Blessed Ethel had one complete stormer entitled "Rat" which rightly received rave reviews, then a few other singles slipped out which were quite good - which obviously wasn't enough to justify their initial hype. "Fat Star" is but one of them, and whilst there's a creepy moodiness about the track which makes it sound comparable to Elastica at their darkest ("S.O.F.T." or "Never Here") there's nothing to suggest they were in any way unique or ahead of the pack at the time, although if we must lump them in with other female fronted bands, I'd argue they deserved success more than Echobelly or Sleeper ever did.

What we're left with seems to be the typical story of a band who the music press would rather forget about, purely because any mention of them just highlights their woeful wrongness in the past. They shouldn't be so coy - apparently Alan McGee was the only person at Creation Records who thought Oasis would make it as well.


Somebody has uploaded a clip of "Rat" to Youtube as well, but it's only thirty seconds long:


Chris Midweeker said...

Oh I adored Blessed Ethel at the time, and still listen to the album from time to time. I met them at one of the Phoenix festivals, after chatting up the girl in the tent next to me, who was friends with the drummer (we'd managed to blag backstage camping, somehow). We spent a couple of evenings getting pissed with them and they were lovely.
I ended up going out with said girl, only to have her date the bassist from Done Lying Down after we split...have you done DLD yet, btw? They still play sometimes, y'know.

Anonymous said...

oh allison crosk ??? no ???

band girls of holland(1995-1996)


23 Daves said...

I don't actually own any Done Lying Down, Chris (apart from a John Peel off-air, which may well have been the victim of a house move) so I can't help you at the moment, I'm afraid. If any turns up in a second hand store though, I'll keep it in mind.

As for you, Anonymous, I don't think I can help you either.

Anonymous said...

pleease ALLISONG CROSS (band girls ,alternative indie girls1995.1996)

Anonymous said...

pleease .................................ALLISONG GROSS ........
(band girls ,alternative indie girls1995.1996)


The Chart Show said...

I remembered a song called Fat Star by Blessed Ethel recorded from The Chart Show on ITV in 1995. It was on the indie chart, but unfortunately they didn't play it, which was always typical with the chart show. Any song which you thought was good, they ended playing depeche mode or worse Erasure !!!

Boudu said...

I had the pleasure of producing four videos for Blessed Ethel. Great band.

The vids are on YouTube:


Fat Star:


2 Minute Mind:

Oh yeah, Oasis suck !

Cornster said...

Blessed Ethel were a great band who for one reason or another didnt kick on and fulfill their potential.
I have all the singles and the album "Welcome To The Rodeo"
My brother in law is actually Mick Harris, Ethel's Bass player. So I was quite close to the band in their pomp!Shame really. They were right at the cusp of the break through they needed but didnt follow through.

Cornel Wilde

Clairabow said...

Blessed Ethel were a top band and I never could understand why they were not so much bigger. They had an amazing sound, looked great and had that edge that many bands of the time only dreamed of. But then I am very slightly biased as I was a friend of the bass player Mike Harris and his family ;)
I heard them playing "Balloon" on BBC Radio 6 Music a couple of days ago (Aug 2013)and wow they sounded good. Been trying to research the members as not been in the area for a few years and ended up here!

Anonymous said...

I had the pleasure of auditioning for blessed ethel on guitar in about '95. Didn't get the job tho!Had great day and they were a truly amazing band to play with.Should have stuck to original line-up I reckon.Shame they didn't really take- off.it's a shit business!